OPINION: It’s Time For A National Conversation About Sexual Assault
If any good emerges from the horrific spectacle in the Senate on Thursday, it may be that more women are contacting hotlines and the nation is discussing the issue of sexual assault. Let’s move from making credibility choices to the complex problem itself.
While countless actors have voiced support for Ms. Ford since her “sexual assault” allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they make millions in an industry where sex, violence, and the objectification of women create their biggest box office hits. Media writ large uses sex to advertise everything. Just watch the video produced by MissRepresentation.org.
At the same time, “Follywood” ignored the countless sexual escapades of Harvey Weinstein, it was producing the sadistic, sick blockbuster series of “Fifty Shades of Gray.” How can we expect teenagers to have healthy relationships when media glorifies perverted behavior and promotes it for Valentine’s day?
One in four girls will experience sexual abuse as a child. For decades, the Catholic Church has allowed pedophile priests to savage thousands of children, and instead of stopping it and prosecuting the perpetrators, the church has covered it up, moved the priests to poorer parishes, and given them a fresh crop of victims.
This is intolerable. Children who are abused feel dehumanized. They can heal if the cycle is broken with significant help, but far too often they are shamed into silence. Their victim-induced self-loathing pushes them to drugs, gangs, tattoos, and alcohol. Often they become perpetrators themselves. It is no coincidence that the number of people with criminal records approximates the numbers of people who have been abused.
These issues could not be more complex. While we must protect women and girls (and boys) from sexual abuse and assault, simultaneously, it is equally important to protect people against false accusations. A false accusation ruins lives just as surely as does an actual sexual assault. Moreover, a false accusation does extreme damage to those who come forward with true claims of sexual assault.
It comes as no shock that teenagers experiment and do stupid things. Teenage boys experience massive injections of testosterone multiple times a day. It literally makes their thoughts fuzzy. Teenage brains are not fully developed. It’s easy for teenagers to engage in conduct they look back on with disgust decades later.
Where do we draw the lines for how we will prosecute criminal conduct? How broadly do we define “sexual assault” itself? Does it include behavior that falls far short of sexual intercourse?
Most people think of sexual assault as rape, and that is how most states treat it. Are we going to expand the definition to include teenagers “copping a feel” or rolling on a bed? We already have the world’s highest incarceration per capita — do we need to go higher?
God put recreation in re-creation to ensure the human race would continue. Sexual conduct should not occur without consent, but shouldn’t people also be taught to set and enforce their own boundaries? Don’t prudence and common sense dictate not putting oneself in a vulnerable position—whether you are male or female?
What responsibilities do we have to consider the invitational aspects of our attire, conduct, and intoxication or consumption of drugs? Most want to be attractive to the sex of their choice, and we often misread non-verbal cues. If someone expects not to be touched at all without permission, should she or he not say so?
Shouldn’t we all have situational awareness and be responsible for our own actions? Do both parties need a blood alcohol test, a witness, and a signed consent form before touching each other?
What roles do parents play in this? Do you know where your teenagers are and who is supervising them? It is imperative parents talk to their children about respect for others, but children learn what they live. Do they see their parents treat each other and themselves with respect? What are they allowed to read? How much time do they spend playing violent games or watching movies that glorify sex and violence?
At bottom, each of us has a role to play in stopping unwanted sexual conduct, and where to draw the lines and attach criminal penalties to teenage conduct especially needs considerable thought and discussion.
As Heather MacDonald wrote earlier this year, sexual seduction is inherently awkward and often ambiguous. How can we impose criminal penalties or convict in the court of public opinion for acts grounded in uncertainty?
These issues must be examined from the side of the accused just as much as the accuser — lest we have more wrongful prosecutions and collateral damage from false accusations.
Sidney Powell is a charter member of The Genesis Alliance in Dallas, Texas, which supports the work of Genesis Women’s Shelter, and she founded a Genesis Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina. A former federal prosecutor, Sidney is the author of Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.